Suzanne Forman sometimes pinches herself these days – not literally, of course – when she thinks of the sparkle of the premium dark chocolate she makes and sells in her Northampton home.
“Do I really make chocolate for a living?” She asks rhetorically.
It turns out it does. This is a second career for the Northampton woman who recently started Tangle Chocolate, a bean-to-bar chocolate business specializing in making thin, premium chocolate slices. The name of the company comes from Forman’s mental image of “tropical forests where cocoa grows, with all the tangled vines and incredible lushness everywhere,” Forman explains.
Forman first became involved in the artisanal chocolate industry in 2015, when she and a friend started Boho Chocolate, another company in the region. She embarked on starting her own business after working at Boho for several years.
“When I was with Boho and went to stores to meet shoppers, I took these little samples for them to try on. They loved them, ”Forman said. “Over time, as I learned more about the geopolitical and social justice issues surrounding chocolate, I became convinced that in order for consumers to understand the high price that this kind of chocolate commands, the chocolate… made it possible to really feel, taste, and savor the quality ingredients and traditional know-how that go into making real chocolate.
Rather than making large chocolate bars that the company has been trained to regard as something to be scalded, Forman offers chocolate in smaller sizes. She thought people would react to this because of her experience with shoppers at the store.
“Shattering it, like I do, encourages people to really slow down and savor every little bit,” she said. “People naturally hold it on their tongue because of its shape, where it melts quickly and reaches all of their taste buds, maximizing their experience of its flavors and aromas. This chocolate has nothing to do with the chocolate I grew up with. And suddenly, chocolate doesn’t become a food, but an experience.
Chocolate that Forman makes at a licensed production facility in his home sells for between $ 9.90 and $ 49.90, and gift boxes with Tangle chocolate and a variety of local produce sell for up to $ 64.90. .
Forman, who previously worked as a mind-body therapist, deeply believes in the joyful power of chocolate, and this specialty chocolate like Tangle is perfect for those who want to live mindfully.
“This chocolate brings me into the moment because it’s so tasty it grabs my attention and awakens all of my senses,” Forman said.
While many small businesses struggled during the pandemic, Forman has seen unique success. She originally planned Tangle’s grand opening for March 2020, just as things were starting to stop due to the spread of COVID-19.
“The (business closures due to the) pandemic helped lower my expectations and relax a bit, because all of a sudden I didn’t feel like I had to compete in a giant way, because… it was clearly going to be a gradual start, ”Forman said.
What she didn’t expect was that “this company is perfect for the pandemic because we all need little pick-me-ups right now … The things that a lot of people were doing that were considered special are out of context. table … We all need something to look forward to, no matter how small. In fact, in some ways, something small is better than something big, because it’s accessible. You can have some chocolate every day.
Tangle is also dedicated to making an ethical product. Forman got her start in chocolate when she traveled to Belize with a group of chocolate lovers, where she learned about the ethics of the chocolate industry and the chocolate making process. As an ethical and sustainable chocolate brand, Forman pays well above fair trade prices – or the minimum price importers must pay for products such as coffee – for its cocoa, unlike most large companies. of chocolate, which are known to use slave labor.
She is part of the new Chocolate Industry for Social Justice initiative, an artisanal chocolate industry group that hopes to educate consumers and push “big chocolate” towards more ethical and sustainable practices.
The farmers of Cahabón, Guatemala, whom Forman works with are part of the ADIOESMAC cooperative which encourages women in the Cahabón community to take leadership roles and start their own businesses in addition to cocoa cultivation. The community of Cahabón is also partnering with the Guatemalan Ministry of Agriculture and various non-governmental organizations to cultivate in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Forman enjoys having a personal relationship with these Guatemalan farmers. “(Farmers) have knowledge that goes back generations. They know more about cocoa than I ever could, and I feel lucky to have them as partners.
Although Tangle sources its two ingredients (cocoa and sugarcane) from Central America, it is a deeply local business and loyal to Northampton. In recent months, Tangle has expanded to offer other locally made products in addition to its original chocolates. Tangle sells hot chocolate kits that include bespoke mugs from Black Cats Pottery in Amherst and coffee infused chocolate with coffee from YUP Coffee Roasters in Florence.
For a limited time this season, Tangle is also offering “Winter in New England” gift sets, which include products from Amherst Soaps, Sweet Birch Herbals and Mole Hollow Candles. Forman also recently started donating unwanted pods from its cocoa beans to Amherst Soaps for use as an exfoliating agent. The majority of Forman’s customers are also local in the Pioneer Valley, and they offer free local delivery through January 1.
If all goes well, Forman hopes to expand the business to a storefront in the near future.
Part of what Forman loves about running Tangle in Northampton is working with other businesses in the community.
“We all really love our city and there is a huge commitment to supporting local businesses and local businesses that support each other, which makes it a total pleasure to be here,” she said.